From homemade pastry shops to vintage motorcycle museums, these are the best things to do in Solvang, California.
Situated on the Central Coast, Solvang is one of my favorite day trips to take whenever I’m in the Santa Barbara area.
This quaint Danish town is one of those places that is so unique you simply can’t miss it if you’re visiting this part of the California Coast.
It’s said that to maintain their heritage, Solvang’s early Danish founders built everything from pastry shops to post offices with classic Danish style architecture to remind them of home.
Today, you’ll find everything from narrow alleys and charming streets to picturesque family-owned fudge and ice cream shops that have all stayed true to their Danish roots throughout the years.
Although the city is known for being one of the most touristy places in California, Solvang is also one of the few places that gives you a taste of Europe in the Golden State.
To get you excited for your next trip to this old-world town, below are the best things to do in Solvang, California!
Whether you’re looking for the overall top things to do, the best wine tasting nearby, or some activities that aren’t quite as touristy, we’ve got you covered with this Solvang bucket list.
Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free travel advice and tips.
Top Things to do in Solvang
Shop the Boutiques in the Village of Solvang
One of the top things to do once you arrive in Solvang is to simply walk around the small downtown area located in the heart of the city.
This is where you can peruse the small shops with their Danish architecture and find a souvenir or two to take home with you.
These are a few of my favorite shops to poke my head into whenever I’m visiting Solvang.
The Book Loft
If you love literature and books, The Book Loft is one of the best shops to visit in Solvang.
Pay your respects to famous Scandinavian writers or peruse fun kids’ books with little ones as you wander through the tiny aisles of this snug bookstore.
This beautiful bookshop is well stocked and has a great variety of old, used, and new books.
As a bonus, the interior is very cozy so it’s an easy place to spend a good chunk of time thumbing through booking and enjoying the old-time charm.
It’s also a nice break from the other stores in the village that can be on the touristy side.
The Jule Hus store (better known as “Solvang’s Christmas House”) is one of the best things to do in Solvang in December or, really, any time of the year you need some Christmas spirit.
This homey shop is stuffed with accessories, ornaments, and holiday items from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland.
Their employees are also incredibly warm and friendly, making it an inviting place to visit and learn more about the village of Solvang.
This is the best place to purchase all sorts of unique Christmas decorations and you can find pretty much anything related to Christmas here.
Located in the center of Solvang, another fun boutique to check out is the Mystic Merchant. Coined the “well-being wonderland,” you can get all of your spiritual goodies here.
They have everything from crystals to incense, oracle decks to spiritual books, as well as decor and healing jewelry.
Even if you’re not into that kind of thing, it’s an interesting place to learn more about the world of healing crystals and stones.
Overall, it’s a magical place filled with positive energy and a go-to shop for your every and any mystical needs.
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Snack on Some Homemade Fudge
Fudge is a kind of a thing in Solvang, which means eating a piece (or two) is a must before you leave.
The Old Danish Fudge Kitchen is located right in the center of Solvang with a fudge recipe that dates back to the late 1800s.
Their flavors range from maple pecan to oreo cookie, and even creamy peanut butter.
And as a bonus, thanks to their heavy use of butter and a special technique, their fudge won’t melt so you can easily take it with you as you explore Solvang.
Eat a Danish Pastry
Eating a Danish pastry is one of those things that you can’t miss out on with a visit to Solvang, it’s basically a rite of passage for visiting the village.
Although there are plenty of Danish bakeries to choose from in Solvang, Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery is hands down the best.
This old-world-themed bakery is stacked with European-influenced pastries and treats.
There’s almost always a line, but for good reason.
They have a wide selection of Danish pastries, such as Danish butter cookies and Kringles, along with a variety of other mouthwatering treats.
One of the main reasons people love this place is that the staff feels like family.
The people who work behind the counter are extremely friendly and passionate about their store and the atmosphere is cheerful inside.
Be sure to grab one of their apricot and raspberry pastries since they make their own preserves at the store!
Spend an Afternoon at a Museum
For such a little town, Solvang has a surprising amount of museums that will help you uncover more about the culture and history of Solvang and Denmark.
Each museum shares a tiny peek into Solvang’s European roots and is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon learning about the town’s rich history and more.
Hans Christian Andersen Museum
One of the best Solvang attractions and things to see, the Hans Christian Andersen Museum is a tiny museum located upstairs in The Book Loft.
As the name suggests, the Hans Christian Andersen Museum features books and stories about the famous Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen.
Hans Christian Anderson is known for writing popular fairytales and his museum reflects just that. Though small, you can easily get lost in this museum that reflects that whimsical feeling.
If you’re a book lover, visiting the Hans Christian Andersen Museum is a must-do in Solvang as it’s one of the most fun and interesting book-themed museums to visit.
Before you leave this part of town, don’t forget to walk by The Little Mermaid Statue across the street. It sits on top of a rock in a pool of water under a shaded tree.
It’s the smaller replica of Denmark’s famous Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen and makes for a great photo op.
Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum
Every motorcycle enthusiast will love the Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum’s display of vintage motorcycles, as well as its collection of European race bikes.
The Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum is a short walk from the main street and with a $10 admission fee, you’ll get a short but informative tour from the friendly manager of the museum.
There are over 100 motorcycles on display making it easy to spend a few hours here learning more about Solvang’s history with motorcycles and racecars.
Elverhoj Museum of History
Located inside a Scandinavian-inspired house, the Elverhoj Museum of History is a small yet informative museum packed with stories and details on Danish culture and daily life.
Spending an hour or two at Elverhoj Museum of History is a must-do in Solvang to get to know Danish culture on another level.
The Danish home-turned-museum is a terrific representation of another time in Denmark and the Danish-American experience as a whole.
At the Elverhoj Museum of History, you can either take a self-guided walk through the exhibits or grab any one of the friendly volunteers to walk you through and have a tour around.
Wildling Museum of Art
Another interesting museum located right in downtown Solvang is the Wildling Museum of Art.
The Wildling Museum of Art features art that is all about nature with pieces from local artists.
And the owners constantly rotate exhibits so you’re guaranteed to see at least one new painting or piece of photography every time you go.
The Wildling Museum of Art has friendly staff, well-curated exhibits, and a gift shop with affordable products to purchase.
Plus, it’s the perfect diversion from shopping and eating Danish pastries all day around Solvang.
Solvang Amber Museum
The Amber Museum in Solvang is another one of the best places to visit in Solvang if you’re looking to learn more about Danish culture, including their love of amber.
You’ll find it located inside the Copenhagen House (a replica of its larger sister, the Amber Museum in Denmark) holding an impressive amount of amber artifacts inside.
The museum takes you through the magnificent history of amber throughout the centuries, including a wide array of entombed insects and antiques from prehistoric times.
The best part is that you can buy from their on-site jewelry and home goods store right inside the museum.
Grab a Glass of Wine in Downtown Solvang
Beyond shopping and museums, one of the most fun things to do in Solvang is sample local wines at the many wine tasting bars around the village.
You’ll have plenty to choose from with over twenty wine tasting rooms around town.
Since the town is close to the Santa Ynez wine country, many owners set up shop in Solvang for visitors and locals alike to enjoy the fantastic grapes that are grown nearby.
If you don’t have time to do a full day of exploring the Santa Ynez Valley wineries, these are the tasting rooms I’d recommend visiting in downtown Solvang.
Sanger Wines Tasting Room
Owners Bill and Jan Sanger are proud owners of Sanger Wines, located in downtown Solvang.
As a first-generation Italian-American, Bill grew up around traditional Italian flavors and food which inspires his wine tasting room today.
Sanger Wines has a wonderful selection of wine and olive oil that come from all over France, Italy, and Spain, as well as a good selection of wine made from grapes grown in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Dascomb Cellars is another Solvang favorite when it comes to wine tasting in the village.
Being a family-owned boutique winery, the owners specialize in hand-crafted wines, so you’ll be sure to find an array of delicious wines that highlight locally grown grapes.
They’re specifically known for thoughtfully pairing local cheeses that complement the wines well.
Although the tasting room has limited seating, they make up for it with a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere and staff.
Royal Oaks Winery
If sweet wine is your thing, Royal Oaks Winery is worth a visit.
Not only do they have dry wines and semi-sweet wines, but they even carry a few basic wines from the area for those looking for something a bit more robust.
With their intimate tasting room that features an elegant atmosphere, having a tasting here can also be one of the more romantic things to do in Solvang.
On a sunny day, relax outside on their outdoor patio and sip one of their special wines paired with their variety of local chocolates. It’s the perfect ending to a wine outing in Solvang.
Fun Things to do in Solvang
Ride the Horse-Drawn Solvang Trolley
One of the more unique things to do in town is to jump on the Horse-Drawn Solvang Trolley.
This isn’t your typical horse and carriage ride – you’ll get to ride inside a Danish-style streetcar tugged around by horses exploring noteworthy Solvang attractions.
The tour isn’t too long at around thirty minutes, packing in a lot of information about the village of Solvang in a short period of time.
It’s a fun way to get off your feet when you’ve been out exploring Solvang all day.
Catch a Show at Solvang Festival Theater
What many people might not know about Solvang is that it has a thriving art and theater community.
Check the events page on the Santa Ynez Valley website to see if there are any art events happening while you’re there.
Otherwise (or additionally), make your way to the Solvang Festival Theater and see if there are any performances during your visit.
This iconic theater was originally built back in the 1970s as an effort to lure visitors to the Santa Ynez Valley area.
Luckily, they didn’t need too much convincing as Solvang quickly became famous for its small-town charm.
The theater is now home to a variety of top-notch theatrical productions. They also put on concerts and events year-round, making this spot a favorite among locals.
Grab a Drink at High Rolley Tiki Lounge
If you’re looking for something not so “Danish” in Solvang, the High Roller Tiki Lounge is a fun place to stop for a drink after a day of Solvang sightseeing.
As the name suggests, everything is tiki-themed here, from tees to mugs to a menu full of tiki-style wine-based cocktails and beers.
Although it’s a step outside the traditional Solvang experience, it’s a nice way to explore the local bar scene and discover a different side to Solvang.
It’s also one of the best things to do at night in Solvang (especially in a place that’s not exactly known for its after-hours activities).
Wine Tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley
Wine tasting is one of the best things to do in California.
So when you find yourself in an award-winning wine country like the Santa Ynez Valley, you should make some time to visit the fantastic wineries in the area.
Although there are plenty of wine tasting rooms located in the heart of Solvang that you can pop into, the wineries just outside of town offer a more tranquil and picturesque winery setting.
Otherwise, this winery biking tour is a great alternative if you don’t want to drive yourself.
Walk Around Downtown Buellton
Just a short 10-minute drive from Solvang, downtown Buellton is another small town in the Santa Ynez Valley and one of the best places to visit near Solvang.
In Buellton, you’ll discover streets lined with locally-owned shops, wine tasting rooms, breweries, local attractions, bakeries, and tons of restaurants.
Like Solvang, you can walk around the town and see just about everything in one day.
Before you leave, don’t miss grabbing a drink or meal at one of the downtown Buellton restaurants. These are a few of my favorites.
This family-owned craft brewery and restaurant was established back in 1996, with the original brewery on their family vineyard in Los Olivos, California.
It’s a social place to hang out with friends and has a great selection of craft beer.
The outside dining options are great too, with cozy fireplaces set up outside for you to enjoy the outdoors while you eat and taste test some of the best beers in California.
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.
Another place to check out some delicious craft beer is Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.
It’s the perfect spot to explore and sample different types of beers while grabbing a few light snacks.
The outside area is spacious with a lively environment. The food ranges from fried pickles to carnitas tacos as well as oven-baked pretzels and incredible bacon mac and cheese.
Hitching Post 2
If you’ve seen the movie Sideways then you’ve seen this iconic Central California steakhouse.
This western-style barbecue steakhouse is dark, cozy, and lined with wooden panels to create an old-school look.
Although Hitching Post 2 is most famously known for its quality steaks and house-made red wine, it’s the atmosphere that attracts locals and visitors alike.
Industrial Eats is a farm-to-table restaurant and butcher shop that’s housed inside a repurposed warehouse in downtown Buellton.
They source all of their ingredients from local farmers in the Santa Ynez Valley to create an epic menu.
The chefs are incredibly talented and innovative here with seasonal menus constantly changing.
Free Things to do in Solvang
Take a Picture With a Windmill
Solvang Village is famously known for its windmills that celebrate its proud Scandinavian heritage.
Luckily, there are seven windmills scattered around town, so you can’t miss them.
You’ll find the majority of them located either in the heart of downtown Solvang or on Copenhagen Drive, with the first windmill being built back in 1947
Snapping a photo with an iconic windmill is one of the best free things to do in Solvang that captures the unique old-world charm of this small town.
Old Mission Santa Ines
Visiting Old Mission Santa Ines is one of the top things to do in town for anyone who wants to learn more about California’s Spanish Colonial history.
Founded back in 1804, the Old Mission Santa Ines was the final mission in California that was founded in the southern part of the state. Today, it continues to serve as a Catholic church.
Beyond the chapel and peaceful gardens, you’ll find a museum inside the mission. After paying an entrance fee of $5, the museum is yours to explore.
Inside, you’ll find a collection of historical artifacts and models that give you a glimpse into what the mission was like in its heyday in the 19th century.
Even if you just come to the Old Mission Santa Ines to simply enjoy the beauty of the surrounding area, it’s an interesting way to discover California’s history in a tactile way.
See the Solvang Wind Harp
If you find yourself in Solvang on a windy and quiet day, seeing the town’s wind harp is something special and unique to experience.
The harp was originally part of San Francisco’s 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition.
After the exposition ended, all of the buildings were destroyed except for the Palace of Fine Arts, which still stands in San Francisco today.
Another thing that survived the demolition was California’s oldest wind harp.
The wind harp, with its Danish-style construction, was moved down to Solvang, a place where it fit in perfectly with the town’s Danish architecture.
The noisy metal sculpture works by being spun as the wind passes through it. It’s one of the most peaceful places in Solvang to relax by.
Admire the Architecture of Bethania Lutheran Church
Thanks to Solvag’s Danish immigrants, the village is full of authentic architecture.
You’ll find everything from thatched roofs, to old-world craftsmanship, and traditional windmills all around you.
The Bethania Lutheran Church is the perfect example of that history as well. Here, you can admire the church’s architecture that was built to preserve Danish culture.
Once inside, you’ll notice a theme around seafaring Scandinavians and ships that hang from the ceiling.
It’s one of the more interesting things to see in Solvang for anyone who’s into history and architecture.
Unique Things to do in Solvang
Visit Ostrichland USA
One of the best things to do with kids in Solvang (or if you’re a kid at heart) is making a stop at Ostrichland if you’re traveling between Buellton and Solvang.
This 30-acre farm has over 100 species of birds, including the emus and ostriches who steal the show.
Once you arrive, head over to buy a bucket of food and get your photos next to these incredible creatures.
Ostrichland also has a small store on-site that’s fun to look around. They sell farm-fresh ostrich eggs and a few other ostrich-themed souvenirs to take home.
See the Miniature Horses at Quicksilver Ranch
Seeing the miniature horses at Quicksilver Ranch is another special encounter with rare animals and another one of the more unique things to do in Solvang with the family.
There are no fees to visit the ranch (although there is a donation box that I’d recommend you put a few dollars in) so once you park your car you can head off and stroll through the property on your own.
For the most part, the miniature horses do their own thing as they graze around. There aren’t any feeding opportunities like you’ll find at Ostrichland, but they’re lovely to look at.
Go Horseback Riding
One of the best things to do around Solvang is getting on horseback and riding through the countryside of the Santa Ynez Valley. There’s nothing else quite like it in the world.
Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Solvang you’ll find a luxury dude ranch called Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort.
They have over 50 miles of riding trails, two golf courses, tennis courts, a spa, a Western-style hotel, and an on-site restaurant.
At the ranch, you can book a guided horseback adventure through local vineyards, canyons, and the rolling hills of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Another option to get on horseback is to spend the day with Vino Vaqueros, where you can enjoy a sip and ride.
This guided horseback ride takes you through the property of Estelle Vineyards and lets you drink wine along the way.
Book their package called the Ride and Wine, which includes a private guide and a few glasses of wine from the very vineyard you’ll see on horseback.
Outdoorsy Attractions in Solvang
Enjoy a Picnic at Hans Christian Andersen Park
If you’re looking to do something outdoors in Solvang, Hans Christian Andersen Park is the perfect place to spend a peaceful afternoon.
Conveniently located near the village of Solvang, this park is huge with plenty of shaded oak trees to sit under and tons of outdoor things to do.
Within the park, you’ll find a skate park, playgrounds, picnic tables, and walking trails to explore wildlife nearby.
It can also be a great spot for a picnic. Grab a to-go lunch or some snacks beforehand at one of Solvang’s bakeries and take it to the park to make an afternoon out of it.
See the Waterfall at Nojoqui Falls Park
Nojoqui Falls Park is another outdoorsy place near Solvang, between Buellton and Santa Barbara, that’s worth checking out.
In addition to shaded trees and picnic tables, Nojoqui Falls Park is mostly known for its dramatic eighty-foot waterfall by the same name, Nojoqui Falls.
The hike to Nojoqui Falls only takes 20 minutes so you won’t work up a sweat but visiting the falls is a fun activity to do if you’re looking to stretch your legs in a beautiful place.
Go for a Hike at Lake Cachuma Recreation Area
Located in Santa Barbara County and a short drive from Solvang, you’ll find the scenic Lake Cachuma Recreation Area.
This is one of the best places to get outdoors near Solvang while admiring a glistening lake and rolling hills in the distance.
Go for a cruise on the water, head out for some fishing, check out their nature center, or go for a hike on one of the many walking trails near the lake.
A few of my favorite hikes at Lake Cachuma Recreation Area include the 4.5-mile Sweetwater Trail, 2-mile Mohawk Trail, and the 1-mile Don Wimpress Trail.
Some of the trails, like the Mohawk Trail, might not break a sweat but they offer a chance to explore the beautiful lake scenery and enjoy some bird watching while you’re at it.
Do a Round or Two of Golf
If you like to golf then you’ll love the courses around Solvang. With temperate climate year-round, pretty much every day in Solvang is a good day for golf.
As a bonus, each course has scenic views of the Santa Ynez River Valley and they’re all situated in a stunning natural environment.
Events in Solvang are a great reason to come and visit the village.
Solvang’s events range from Danish celebration days in September to grape stomping in October to one of the best Christmas markets in December.
These are a few of my favorite seasonal events in Solvang.
Solvang Grape Stomp
Every October the wine harvest in the Santa Ynez Valley begins with the annual Solvang Grape Stomp.
The Solvang Grape Stomp is an exciting event to witness as spirits are high with celebrations of the harvest season starting.
In addition to the grape stomping, all of Santa Barbara County’s best wineries and local eateries come out for a street festival lined with tents.
It’s a fun way to sip and taste your way through some of the best wine and food in the region.
In September, the two-day Danish Heritage Festival, also known as Danish Days, takes place in Solvang.
During Danish Days, you’ll see everything from Danish folk dancers and musicians performing around town to parades.
There are also evening concerts, an outdoor beer and wine garden, and a bunch of other free events and attractions that are fun for kids and adults alike.
Experience Christmastime in Solvang
December in Solvang is one of the most magical times to visit. The town is filled with holiday celebrations all month long. Time Magazine once even coined Solvang as one of the “Most Christmassy Towns in America.”
Solvang’s annual Christmas celebration, also known as Julefest, is an entire month packed with twinkling Christmas lights, events, parties, and a random assortment of holiday celebrations.
Where to Eat & Drink in Solvang
Solvang is lined with amazing restaurants and Danish bakeries to choose from making sure you never feel hungry.
Over the past five years, the emergence of trendy restaurants has popped up in Solvang along with artisanal coffee shops and modern wineries to suit the needs of both visitors and locals.
So whether you’re stopping for a day or staying for a long weekend in Solvang, I have a few favorite places to eat a meal, grab a coffee, and sample Danish food and wine.
These are the best foodie spots and restaurants in Solvang:
Bakeries & Sweets
- Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery
- Mortensen’s Danish Bakery
- Birkholm’s Bakery & Cafe
- Solvang Trolley Ice Cream Parlor
Where to Stay in Solvang
If you’re planning on spending more than one day in Solvang, there are plenty of hotels to choose from around town.
Most of the options for accommodation in Solvang are super cozy and quaint. For the most part, they all have traditional Scandinavian decor with the atmosphere of a small-town inn.
These are my top recommendations for hotels in the Solvang area:
If you’re looking to stick to the outdoors, the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley offers an array of amazing camping opportunities as well.
Cachuma Lake Recreation Area is the first place I’d recommend with how close it is to Solvang and how beautiful the area is.
The campsites at Cachuma Lake offer everything you’ll need for a getaway in the outdoors.
Their recreational facilities are ideal for camping with conveniences, such as a general store, laundromat, and hot showers.
If you’re looking for something a bit more modern, the Flying Flags RV Resort & Campground is a good option with cozy cabins and cottages with their private decks and firepits.
Further outside of Solvang, Figueroa Campground is another option if you’re looking to get away from the crowds.
Best Time to Visit Solvang
Let’s face it, the California Coast is blessed with amazing weather year-round so there’s really no bad time to visit Solvang.
That being said, April and May are especially nice times to visit Solvang as it tends to warm up during the springtime and there are tons of things to do.
The beginning of fall and around the holidays are also wonderful times for a visit.
Autumn usually brings even better weather to town and the changing of the leaves paints the valley surrounding the vineyards in fiery red and orange hues of color.
Around the holidays in December, Solvang comes alive with Christmas markets (filled with plenty of Christmas gifts) and celebrations.
It’s the epitome of a cozy European Christmas with stringed Christmas lights, hot chocolate, and carolers roaming the streets.
Tips for Visiting Solvang
- Plan to spend a day (or maybe two) here – You won’t need that much time to see and experience all of Solvang. You can see the entire town in one day and experience the surrounding sights within 2-3 days.
- Embrace the touristy nature of Solvang – Solvang can seem a bit kitschy at times but that’s all part of the fun. Expect it to be touristy and indulge in the town’s quirky and cheesy nature. It’s not every day you come across a Danish-themed town in California!
- Buy all the pastries, fudge, and fun souvenirs for your family and friends – Since Solvang is a unique town full of authentic Scandinavian culture and hospitality, you’ll want to share the experience with others by bringing some things home for them.
- Take time to explore the areas outside of Solvang – The Santa Ynez Valley is full of beautiful and outdoorsy things to do and see. There are farms of different crops, vast vineyards and wineries to taste at, and tons of hiking trails that take you all over the valley and beyond. If you have more time than just a day trip, spend it exploring the beautiful nature outside the village.
What to Pack for Solvang
- Light jacket
- Breathable t-shirt/layers
- Jeans, leggings, or shorts – depending on the weather
- Good pair of walking shoes
- Crossbody bag/purse/small backpack
- Dress or nice outfit for wine tasting
- Reusable water bottle
- Hiking shoes and daypack – if you plan to get out in nature
- Travel insurance
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristen Slizgi is a writer and travel consultant born and raised in San Diego, California. When she’s not writing about her own travels or consulting on travel, you can find her planning her next escapade to some undiscovered and off-the-beaten-path destination. She travels multiple times a year to gain on-site experiences and knowledge, attends travel shows, and lives abroad for periods throughout the year.
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